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UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Central America

Central America's Natural and Cultural Heritage Sites


A UNESCO World Heritage Site is defined as a place (like a national park, city, natural attraction or ancient ruin) that has been designated by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as having exceptional cultural or natural significance to the common heritage of humanity. As of 2011, UNESCO has listed 936 sites: 183 natural, 725 cultural, and 28 mixed. There are sixteen UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Central America, with sites represented in all seven Central American countries.

Explore the UNESCO World Heritage Sites of Central America!

1. Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System

The Belize Barrier Reef
Kirsten Hubbard
Type: Natural
Added: 1996
The Belize Barrier Reef is the second-longest in the world, after the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and offers some of the world's very best diving and snorkeling. Many of the Belize cayes border the Belize Barrier Reef, or are part of it.

2. Joya de Cerén Archaeological Site, El Salvador

Type: Cultural
Added: 1993
Known as the Pompeii of the Americas, Joya de Cerén is a village that was preserved intact under 17 layers of volcanic ash. Unlike Pompeii, the villagers managed to flee the 590 AD eruption in time; no bodies have been found.

3. Antigua Guatemala

Antigua Guatemala Type: Cultural
Added: 1979
Antigua Guatemala is a colonial city, founded in 1543 by the Spanish conquistadors (back then, the city was named Santiago de los Caballeros). Despite a number of earthquakes, many of the city's colonial churches and other relics are still standing, just one of the reasons Antigua Guatemala is one of Central America's most popular destinations.

4. Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua, Guatemala

Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua, Guatemala Type: Cultural
Added: 1981
Located in southern Guatemala, the Archaeological Park and Ruins of Quirigua are closely linked to the Copán ruins in Honduras. Quirigua is most celebrated for its sculpture, including the tallest monuments in the New World.

5. Maya Site of Copán, Honduras

The Copan Ruins
Kirsten Hubbard
Type: Cultural
Added: 1980
The Mayan archaeological site of Copán is one of the best-preserved and cultural significant in Central America.

6. Darién National Park, Panama

Type: Natural
Added: 1981
Darién National Park is the largest of Panama's National Parks, and one of the most important in terms of biodiversity. Due to its thick, nearly impenetrable rainforest, the Darién Gap is the only place in the Americas where the Pan-American highway stops.

7. Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panama City

Panamá Viejo
Kirsten Hubbard
Archaeological Site of Panamá Viejo and Historic District of Panama City Type: Cultural
Added: 1997
The ruins of Panamá Viejo, ("Old Panama") or Casco Viejo, represents what's left of the original Panama City, which was founded in 1519. Panama City's Historic District is also included in UNESCO's designation.

8. Cocos Island National Park, Costa Rica

Type: Natural
Added: 1997
Cocos Island (Isla del Coco in Spanish) is an uninhabited island 340 miles (550 km) from the Pacific coast of Costa Rica, with unique ecological qualities and incredible biowealth. Its marine life attracts Scuba divers from all around the world. It also might be the inspiration for the famous island in Michael Crichton's Jurassic Park.

9. Tikal National Park, Guatemala

The Tikal Ruins
Kirsten Hubbard
Type: Mixed
Added: 1979
The Mayan ruins and natural attractions of Guatemala's Tikal National Park are some of the most-visited and well-preserved in all of Latin America.

10. Fortifications on the Caribbean coast of Panama

Type: Cultural
Added: 1980
The Portobelo-San Lorenzo Fortifications on Panama's Caribbean side were listed by UNESCO as a great example of 16th/17th-century Spanish military architecture.
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